Missouri Bill Would Allow Lawsuits for Helping With Out-of-State Abortions

A Missouri state lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow private citizens to be sued for aiding women who get out-of-state abortions.

Republican Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman introduced the bill in the Missouri House on Tuesday. If it makes its way through the legislative process, the measure, which is currently awaiting debate in the House, would allow any private citizen in Missouri to sue someone who assisted a fellow Missourian in obtaining an abortion in another state.

While Missouri does currently allow legal abortions, they must be performed before the 22-week mark of pregnancy, and there is only one remaining abortion clinic in the state.

Coleman's measure is reportedly piggybacking off of a recent anti-abortion law in Texas that prohibits most abortions in that state after the six-week mark of pregnancy. In addition to opening the door for lawsuits for aiding with out-of-state abortions, the Missouri bill would also make it illegal to manufacture or distribute abortion pills in the state.

Mary Elizabeth Coleman
Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a GOP state representative from Missouri, has introduced a bill that would allow private citizens to sue those who assist Missourians in receiving out-of-state abortions. Above, Coleman is seen canvassing for votes ahead of the 2018 midterms. Mandel Ngan/Getty

Coleman is one of the most outspoken anti-abortion activists in the GOP-controlled Missouri House. Before being elected, Coleman worked for the anti-abortion Thomas More Society law firm.

News of the measure was first reported by The Washington Post, which noted that the law could directly affect Missourians who often travel to neighboring Illinois for the procedure, where abortions are more regularly available.

The Post additionally said that the measure, if passed, could undercut the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that protects a woman's right to an abortion.

"The measure could signal a new strategy by the anti-abortion movement to extend its influence beyond the conservative states poised to tighten restrictions if the Supreme Court moves … to overturn its landmark precedent protecting abortion rights," the Post wrote.

Coleman told the Post, "If your neighboring state doesn't have pro-life protections, it minimizes the ability to protect the unborn in your state."

Missouri is ranked with the fifth-lowest abortion rate among U.S. states, according to 2022 data from the World Population Review. This comes out to approximately four abortions per every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in the state, the data said.

The abortions that do take place are conducted at the state's lone clinic, a Planned Parenthood center on the Missouri-Illinois border. The nonprofit has reported that 10,644 Missourians have received abortions at the clinic since it opened its doors in 2019.

Newsweek has reached out to the Missouri House of Representatives for comment.